History & Culture

group cutting a ribbon to open Fort Rosalie site in 2016
U. S. Senator Roger Wicker and Congressman Greg Harper at the opening of Fort Rosalie in 2016 during the Natchez Tricentennial.

NPS Collection

Natchez National Historical Park tells the story of Natchez in the American South. The park protects the sites and structures associated with the peoples of Natchez and its surrounding area from earliest inhabitants to the modern era. The name Natchez is derived from the "Natchez" American Indians who inhabited the area at the time of European exploration. The historic sites maintained by the park, and the surrounding preservation district, give visitors an opportunity to understand the region's social political, and economic development, particularly in the pre-and-post Civil War era's. They also provide insights into the region's commercial and agricultural history, especially in relation to the Mississippi River, slavery, and cotton.

The park is composed of five NPS owned properties: Forks of the Road, Fort Rosalie, Melrose, the William Johnson House, the Natchez Visitor Center, and a larger area known as the preservation district.

In June, 2021, Natchez National Historical Park began the acquisition of the nationally significant Forks of the Road, the second largest slave market in the Deep South. Working with the City of Natchez, the National Park Foundation, and the Friends of the Forks of the Road, the park is in the process of compiling a long-range development and interpretive plan for the site.

Constructed in the 1840s, the suburban estate, Melrose, was built by a wealthy attorney and cotton planter and was home to his family and 22 enslaved people who lived and worked there. Recognized as a National Historic Landmark, the main house on the estate has been called "One of the Great Houses of the American South." The estate is recognized not only for the high quality and finishes of the Greek Revival mansion and intact grouping of outbuildings, but also for the collection of 19th century original furnishings that have been well maintained and preserved over the years.

William Johnson, known as "The Barber of Natchez," was born into slavery but was freed at the age of 11. Johnson eventually owned several barber shops, rental property, a farm, and timberland but his greatest contribution may very well be his lengthy personal and business diary that offers a glimpse of antebellum southern life and relations between whites and non-enslaved blacks. William Johnson's townhouse is in downtown Natchez.

Established by the French among the Natchez people on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River in 1716, Fort Rosalie was intended to guarantee control of the largest and most navigable river in North America. The fort anchored a European settlement that survived three different periods of European rule over the course of the 1700s (French, British, and Spanish) and developed into the capital of the Mississippi Territory under United States governance at the end that century. The settlement coalesced into the town of Natchez, and the territory into the state of Mississippi in 1817.

In 2020, Natchez National Historical Park acquired the Natchez Visitors Center, a 25,000 sq. ft. facilty located near the Mississippi River bridge. The visitor center serves not only as a Mississippi State Welcome Center but also as the Southern Terminus for the Natchez Trace Parkway. Here, visitors to Natchez can enjoy exhibits, a gift shop, panoramic view of the river, and assistance from a knowlegeable and welcoming staff in planning their visit to the greater Natchez area.

The community of Natchez, the nonprofit Historic Natchez Foundation, and the National Park Service work in partnership to enhance the city's preservation landscape. Today, much of the city's 19th century built environment maintains a high level of preservation through the designation of 8 National Register of Historic Places districts, 13 national historic landmarks, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized Forks of the Road slave market site. These preserved sites provide a collective historic context that includes NPS owned properties and strengthens educational and interpretive efforts between the National Park Service and the surrounding community.

Last updated: June 11, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

640 South Canal Street
Suite E

Natchez , MS 39120

Phone:

601 446-5790
Hours are 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

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